Prince George's jail officers accuse each other of assault

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011; 7:44 PM

Working as a corrections officer in the Prince George's County jail, which houses more than 1,000 accused and convicted criminals, can be dangerous.

The jail parking lot in Upper Marlboro can be treacherous, too, according to court papers in which two jail officers accuse each other of assault.

On Jan. 27, jail officers Corey Thomas and Eric Thomas, who are not related, attacked each other, and one officer brandished a handgun, according to court papers filed by the two. Neither has been charged or arrested. In Maryland, people who are not sworn police officers can file court papers alleging criminal acts by others.

Jail officials are conducting an internal investigation, said Mary Lou McDonough, director of the county Department of Corrections.

In the meantime, both officers remain on full duty, although Corey Thomas, whose job is to supervise inmates doing community service, has been ordered to stay away from the jail, McDonough said.

The two officers agree that a confrontation took place, but provide dramatically different accounts of what happened.

Eric Thomas struck Corey Thomas in the stomach, called him a "fat boy," then pushed him, Corey Thomas wrote in a statement of charges against his fellow officer. The confrontation quickly escalated, Corey Thomas wrote.

"When I blocked his hand to avoid his attack he pulled his gun out of his right coat pocket with his finger on the trigger and said 'What!' I feared that Eric Thomas would shoot me so I backed away," Corey Thomas wrote.

The confrontation ended when another jail employee walked over and asked whether everything was all right, Corey Thomas wrote.

Eric Thomas declined to comment on that account.

In a statement of charges, Eric Thomas alleged that Corey Thomas was the aggressor.

Eric Thomas wrote that he was getting off work when Corey Thomas and two other men told him they wanted his motorcycle vest. When he asked what would happen if he refused, Eric Thomas wrote, Corey Thomas said he would take the vest from him.

When he warned Corey Thomas that he could lose his job, Corey Thomas replied "that he knows where my children live and where my parents live," Eric Thomas wrote.

Corey Thomas tried to leave, Eric Thomas wrote, but one of Corey Thomas's companions blocked his path. Then Corey Thomas grabbed his shirt and pushed him. The confrontation ended when a jail sergeant walked up, Eric Thomas wrote.

Corey Thomas did not return a phone call.

Eric Thomas, 27, began working for the corrections department in 2003. Corey Thomas, 25, joined the department in 2005, officials said.

This is not the first time trouble has occurred in the jail parking lot. In December 2008, a man who was released from the jail after being arrested for assault carjacked a man driving a Toyota SUV in the jail parking lot, police said. The man was arrested about two hours later.

A Prince George's County District Court hearing on the charges against Corey Thomas is scheduled for Feb. 25. The charges against Eric Thomas are scheduled for a hearing March 1.

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